Video Provides Clues to Alleged Firearm Theft, but Defendant Pleads Not Guilty

By Ganga Nair

SACRAMENTO, CA – Hector Gonzalez, a Sacramento man with prior convictions of robbery in 2017, was arraigned here this week in Sacramento County Superior Court on charges of stealing firearms from his acquaintance and coworker.

Gonzalez pleaded not guilty to the accusations of theft, despite the victim’s security footage that showed him entering and exiting the building.

After the preliminary hearing, although the court set the matter for trial, there was some question as to the ownership of some of the weapons and follow-up by police officers.

On Dec. 5, 2020, at around 12:30 a.m., Sacramento Police Officer Andrew Scharner was called by the victim to her apartment, who recollected the events.

The victim said that, while working on a project, she took a moment to use the restroom, leaving the main room of her apartment. When she returned, she saw, “Mr. Gonzalez standing there, holding her two firearms.” Gonzalez proceeded to leave the victim’s residence, without a word.

Officer Scharner told Jackson Hadden, legal intern to Saron Tesfai of the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office, the victim reported an additional $250 missing from her purse, adding the victim had a Ring doorbell, with two videos: one showing the defendant entering the apartment, and one showing the defendant leaving.

Michael Wise, the defense attorney representing Gonzalez, then questioned Officer Scharner, asking about the relationship between the victim and Gonzalez.

The officer responded, saying that the victim had “seen Gonzalez at a local casino a few times, and he volunteered to work at the non-profit she was starting out.”

Wise asked the officer if he confirmed the nature of their relationship through her phone records, videos or pictures, to which the officer responded, “I cannot recollect.”

He also questioned the officer about the two surveillance videos, asking if they looked like they were doctored, to which the officer confirmed the videos were not edited.

Wise also asked Scharner if they found anything indicating that the victim owned the firearms such as ammunition, holsters, or magazines related to firearms. Officer Scharner reported not finding any holsters or magazines.

When he asked the victim about the ammunition, “She stated that she had no ammunition…I don’t remember exactly.” No photographs were taken of the location where the victim stored her firearms, and they were not recovered from the defendant.

Hadden then questioned Officer Scharner once again, asking how the officers were able to confirm the stolen firearms were in fact the victim’s.

Officer Scaharner reported finding the bill of sale for the Glock 26. However, “At the time I contacted her, she wasn’t able to locate any paperwork for the rifle style of gun she described to me.”

Officer Brian Hergenreder was then called to the stand and recalled following up on the incident on Dec. 8, 2020, going into detail about the two videos on the victim’s Ring doorbell.

He explained in the first video that the defendant waited before being let into the apartment, and the second video shows the defendant walking out, with something in his right side. The officer concluded that although “he goes out so quickly, it’s hard to tell what it was, presumably it’s the gun that she said he stole.”

Continuing his investigation, Officer Hergenreder said the photo on Gonzalez’s driver’s license was sent to the victim, who confirmed that the suspect was in fact him.

Wise then cross-examined Officer Hergenreder, asking if he conducted a follow-up investigation, to which Hergenreder responded saying he had not. Wise continued to ask if the phone records of the victim and Gonzalez were checked to confirm the nature of their relationship as well as the events on Dec. 5.

The officer said he did conduct a review of Gonzalez’s phone records, and asked the victim again about his relationship with the defendant. The victim also stated that the defendant was trying to help her with the homeless program they were starting, but no evidence was provided to support the victim’s statements.

Presiding Judge Helena R. Gweon concluded there was sufficient evidence to hold defendant Gonzalez to answer the counts of unlawful possession of firearms by theft, to which the defendant pleaded not guilty. The matter has been continued to July 21 to confirm his trial date.

Ganga Nair is a rising sophomore at UC Davis, majoring in International Relations and Psychology. She is from Sacramento, CA, and hopes to pursue a career in international law.

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